What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?/Program 5

By: Joan Cetnar, Brian Garcia, Bob Gray, Keith Walker, and Don Veinot; ©2011
Jehovah’s Witnesses have more than different beliefs — they have a different Bible. The New World Translation includes numerous changes found in no other English translation that can be proven as inaccurate. Why are they changed? To support key Watchtower beliefs. In this session of The John Ankerberg Show, we’ll learn some of the history of this translation, its errors, and how a study of these problems has led many to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Contents

Introduction

Today, one out of every 282 Americans is a Jehovah’s Witness. Across the world, 7.5 million Jehovah’s Witnesses in 236 countries go door to door preaching the Watchtower message. Who are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and what do they believe? Their headquarters, called the Watchtower, are in Brooklyn, New York. In their publications, the Watchtower claims to be Jehovah’s only channel of communication on earth today; God’s prophet; speaking for God; the only right religion on earth. Yet the Watchtower holds vastly different beliefs than historic Christianity. It has its own Bible, the New World Translation; holds false views of Jesus, Scripture, salvation, and the afterlife; and forbids all Jehovah’s Witnesses from having blood transfusions, celebrating Christmas or Easter, birthdays or holidays. Where did these false beliefs come from? How can you show a Jehovah’s Witness what the Bible really teaches? Today you will find out.

My guests are: Joan Cetnar a former fourth-generation Jehovah’s Witness who served at the Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, where she observed first-hand the President and other leaders. Her husband Bill held the position of answering questions submitted to the Watchtower for one-third of the United States. You’ll hear the shocking story of the doctrinal and behavioral deceptions that caused them to leave, later becoming Christians, and founding a ministry that helps those raised with Watchtower beliefs.

Then, Brian Garcia. He was brought up in a Jehovah’s Witness family, and defended its beliefs in college and on the internet. You’ll hear how a Christian friend helped him understand the message of the true Jesus and the good news of the gospel—that everyone who puts their trust in Jesus, they will go to heaven.

Bob Gray was a Jehovah’s Witness for 24 years and served as an elder in his congregation. He went door to door 100 hours each month. But he came to realize he had no basis in Scripture for what he was teaching, and decided to leave.

And, finally, you will hear from two experts who minister to Jehovah’s Witnesses: Keith Walker, president of Evidence Ministries, and Don Veinot Jr., president of Midwest Christian Outreach. We hope today’s program will help you and others around the world to share the truth with those who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Join us for this special edition of the John Ankerberg show.

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Ankerberg: Alright. We have a terrific program for you today. We’ve got three ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses and two experts on the Jehovah’s Witnesses teachings. We’re doing this program hopefully for those of you that are Jehovah’s Witnesses that might have questions about what you’ve been learning in the Watchtower organization. You’ve come to the spot where you’ve got doubts and you don’t know who to turn to. We’re also doing this program for Christians who have friends, relatives, people at work, who are Jehovah’s Witnesses and you don’t know what to say to them. You don’t know how to answer their questions. Well, we’re going to the experts today.
And we’re talking right now about, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have translated the Bible. They have come out with their own translation. And concerning this New World Translation, I’ve got a quote here from the Watchtower magazine, December 1, 1981, which talks about the importance of Jehovah’s Witnesses reading Watchtower materials along with their Bible. Listen to what the Watchtower says: “But Jehovah God has also provided his visible organization,” this is the Watchtower, “his visible and discreet slave,” a reference to Matthew 24, “made up of spirit-anointed ones.” So the leaders at the Watchtower there that are doing the writing are the “spirit-anointed ones,” and they are there to “help Christians in all nations to understand and apply the Bible in their lives properly.” Sounds cool, but listen to this. “Unless we are in touch with this channel of communication,” in other words, unless you are reading what they are writing, “that God is using, we will not progress along the road to life, no matter how much Bible reading we do.” So you could read it until the cows come home but, the fact is, you need the Watchtower to give you the right direction.
Gray: In 1981, August 15, 1981, they did an article titled “Avoid independent thinking.” And then they write in there, “There are those who think they can study the Bible alone or in small groups. But strangely such Bible reading has caused them to revert back to the pagan doctrines Christendom taught 100 years ago.”
Ankerberg: Alright. Now, Joan and Brian, take me back. I’ve got a purple Bible, Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, this is the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. You’ve got another color, and I think there is a green one too—I had a green one as well.
Cetnar: That’s their Bible, the full Bible.
Veinot: They also have their brown study Bible.
Ankerberg: Let’s talk about these Bibles. When did they first start coming out, and who were the translators?
Cetnar: 1950, I had that edition, that was the first printing and that was just the New Testament, or they call it Christian Greek Scriptures. Then they came out with a portion of the Old Testament, until I think there were four different; then they finally bound them all into one. That was done in ’67, I think, or ’62. And then they had different editions after that. In ’69 they came out with what we called “the purple people eater.” It’s a New Testament with the Greek. It’s an excellent tool for a Christian to compare. For instance, I did John 8:58, and “I am” is on the Greek side and “I have been” is on the other side. Well, I can’t read Greek, and they can’t read Greek, and if this is what a Greek scholar says it says, that’s what it is. And, a lot of places like that, you can compare the two and then show them that the Greek does not agree with their translation.
Ankerberg: Brian, where are some of the verses that they… why did they come out with their own translation? Where do they mistranslate things and why?
Garcia: Well, I have here the 1985 edition of the Christian Greek Scripture, Interlinear Bible that they published by the Watchtower Society. I also have the purple one, the 1969 one. And it’s an interesting quote in the reference in the back of the 1969 one, where they quote a Greek scholar by the name of Julius Mantey in support of their translation of John 1:1 where in their verse it says, “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was a god.” They quote him to say that he supported it. Yet he came out and he said “I do not support this. This is a horrible…
Ankerberg: He wrote a letter.
Cetnar: Yeah.
Garcia: Yeah. He wrote a letter to the Watchtower Society and to the public and said “I do not support this translation. It is intentionally mistranslated, especially when they get into verses of Christ’s deity.” So John 1:1 is a perfect example. It says in the Greek, it says “En archē en kai o logos,” “In the beginning was the word,” “ēn pros ton theon” “and he was with the God” “kai theos ēn o logos” and it says “and God was the Word.” There’s no indefinite article in the Greek; there’s no reason why the “a” should be there. The Watchtower has said one thing right. It said that it is qualitative, and it is, because it is not talking about the person of the Word, it’s talking about the nature of the Word.
Ankerberg: Charles Feinberg, a Greek scholar, said there is no reputable scholar in the world that agrees with the translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses on John 1:1.
Cetnar: But they found a translation that was exactly like it.
Ankerberg: Okay, we’ve got “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” and they changed that to “was a god.”
Ankerberg: Now, there is one translation, and who was the person that wrote that translation?
Cetnar: Johannes Greber.
Ankerberg: And they quoted him and used him for a while as documentation.
Cetnar: They used him for several… at least eight or nine times, in three different publications of theirs. We started doing some research on who Johannes Greber was, and found out that he was a Catholic priest in Germany who had received a translation of the New Testament under spirit guides. He says this and explains it all in Communications with the Spirit World, his other book. So the demons—and he admits to that; he became a spirit medium—the demons helped him in that translation. And they said, “Well, we didn’t know that.” Well, we found letters at the foundation in New Jersey, found letters from the Watchtower Society ordering his books and his New Testament long before they said they didn’t hear it. But in 1956, in their Watchtower magazine, they said, stay away from Greber’s material because it’s demon-inspired. Then they start quoting him in 1962 and ‘63.
Ankerberg: So he’s the only scholar they could find in the world that would be backing up their translation of John 1:1.
Cetnar: Well, that was exactly the same.
Ankerberg: So that will tell you a just little bit about where they’re coming from. Now, we’re going to take a break. When we come back, Joan’s husband, who was answering questions for a third of the Watchtower for a long time while you were working there, you knew who the secret committee is. If you went to the front or back of these books and you tried to look for who was on the translation committee, there was nobody mentioned. They would say it was Jehovah God that was giving this information. We need to talk about that too. But, folks, I’m going to let Joan explain to you who were some of the people on that committee, because Bill, her husband, knew that and they were actually taken to court. We’re going to find out how smart they were in terms of knowing the original languages. We’ll talk about that when we come right back.

BREAK

Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking with Brian Garcia, Joan Cetnar, Bob Gray, all who were Jehovah’s Witnesses at one time and have left the Watchtower Society; and Don Veinot and Keith Walker. And we’re talking right now about, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have translated the Bible. They’ve come out with their own translation. And we’re talking about this New World Translation. We were just, in the last segment, talking a little bit about John 1:1. Let me just finish up that one there. When Julius R. Mantey was quoted in the Watchtower, he did get mad. I’ve got a copy of his letter and this is what he said about their translation that “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” Nobody translates it that way, and he said, “This is a grossly misleading translation. It is neither scholarly nor reasonable to translate John 1:1 ‘the word was a god.’” Then he went on to say, “Of all the scholars in the world, so far as we know, none have translated this verse as Jehovah’s Witnesses have done.” Now, Joan, let’s talk a little bit about who was on this translation committee. Because when you get the NIV Bible, the American Standard Bible, the King James, you can go back and you can find out who was on the translation committee. NIV had like 110 different scholars that they listed that were part of the committee. Who were the people that were on the New World Translation committee? Cause, at first, when you got this, they didn’t say, it was a mystery deal.
Cetnar: They didn’t want to get any credit for it, they said. And we say we won’t give you any credit.
Ankerberg: At the same time the Watchtower was saying that this information, this Bible, was the very words of God coming down. This was the …
Cetnar: Most accurate.
Ankerberg: The most accurate. And everybody in the Jehovah’s Witnesses was supposed to follow it. Now, who, again, were on the committee?
Cetnar: Well, the only ones who knew any Greek at all were a Greek man himself, and he was not familiar with the Koine Greek, which the Bible was originally written in. And the other man, who became one of the last presidents, Fred Franz; and he only took one semester of Greek at Cincinnati University. So, neither one of them were a scholar in the Greek language or the Hebrew. And Franz, under oath, at the Scottish trial in 1954 was …
Ankerberg: He was brought into court and he was asked questions about this translation.
Cetnar: Yeah. He was asked about, the attorney says, “Have you also made yourself familiar with Hebrew?” And Franz says, “Yes.” “So that you have a substantial linguistic apparatus at your command?” Franz said, “Yes, for use in my biblical work.” “I think you’re able to read and follow the Bible in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, German?” And Franz says “Yes.” “You, yourself, read and speak Hebrew? Do you?” Franz says “I do not speak Hebrew.”
Now, I don’t understand how he could read it and not be able to speak it. I mean, that may be possible, but a scholar would be able to. I knew Dr. Mantey; he came to our first convention. He stood up there and he read out of the Greek text, not even a translation of it.
Ankerberg: But that’s not all that happened at that trial. What was the rest?
Cetnar: So then he said, “Would you read the fourth verse of the second chapter of Genesis?” Franz says, “You mean here?” “Yes.” Franz says, “No, I wouldn’t attempt to do that.” And I understand that any first-year Hebrew student could read that when you presented it to them.
Ankerberg: Yeah, you would be flunked if you couldn’t read it. Yeah. Now, he was one of them. So, this gives you kind of an idea of the kind of people that were translating
Cetnar: Now, the others had no linguistics.
Ankerberg: And the others had none at all. And your husband knew the names of all of them and knew this.
Cetnar: Right.
Ankerberg: Alright. Now let’s take a look at the product. And give me an example here of one of the verses they mistranslated.
Gray: Often Jehovah’s Witnesses accuse the translators of Christendom of retranslating their Bible because of bias. In Colossians 1:15, it starts, “He is the image of the invisible God…”
Ankerberg: Talking about Jesus, now
Gray: Yep. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, because by means of him” and then they insert the word “other.” And everywhere I say “other” here, it was inserted. And we know this because in this particular copy it was put in brackets. So it says, “Because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities; all [other] things have been created through him and for him. Also he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist.” And they really want to reword this in such a way that it highlights their view that Jesus was a created being.
Ankerberg: Yeah, because if Jesus created all things, then he was the Creator.
Gray: Exactly.
Ankerberg: Alright. Now, let’s pick up that thing on,… the Jehovah’s Witnesses say, “Yeah, but it also shows that Jesus was the first created being—he was the firstborn.” And what did you find out that actually meant?
Garcia: Well, you have to look at what Paul did not say. He did not say Jesus is the first created, it says he is the firstborn. The Greek word is prōtotokos. Now, what does that mean in Scripture? In Psalm 89 we have David being called the firstborn of Jehovah, but he was the last-born of Jesse. We have Israel, in Exodus, called the firstborn of Jehovah, but how could a nation be the firstborn? And so we need to look at what this actually means. And in Scripture, “firstborn” means to be the preeminent one; to be the heir of all things. We notice of the context of Colossians 1:15, it says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation,” Why? Because “He created all things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things have been created through him and” not only that, but “for him.” And it says very clearly, “He is before all things and in him all things hold together.”
This is the point that Paul is trying to bring home in verse 18. He says, “So that all this” —all this is so that “he Jesus might come to be the first place in all things.” He is talking about Christ’s preeminence. We know that Jesus is not a created being because in John 1:1, whether it is a god or God it says, “In the beginning the Word was.” It doesn’t say he came, he became, he was created, he was brought forth; it says he already was there.
Ankerberg: In there, I mean the Old Testament, you have Esau and Jacob. Esau was born first, okay? But Jacob was said to be the firstborn. He was the one with prominence—first in rank. And what we are talking about with Jesus is not any kind of human birth; we’re talking about he was the first in rank. He was the one who was the creator and was supposed to be given that status. Now, give me another verse. You’ve got one?
Walker: I’ve got another one here. Titus 2:13 says, “While we wait for the happy hope and the glorious manifestation of the great God and [the] Savior Christ Jesus.” Now, they have inserted “the”—it’s in brackets. The reason they do this is to try to give you the impression that we are speaking about two different people here—God and the Savior. Again, “the” is not in the Greek, and you can see that here. I’m looking at the Greek text. But if you want to drop down to verse 4 in chapter 3, it says, “when the kindness and love for man on the part of our Savior God was manifested….” That’s the exact same Greek word. Then again in verse 6 of the same chapter, chapter 3, “this spirit he poured out richly upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Yet we’ve got Isaiah telling us that there is only one Savior. And in the same book, just one chapter separated, we have God being called the Savior and Jesus also being called the Savior.
Ankerberg: When you talk with Jehovah’s Witnesses, what do they say when you show this to them?
Veinot: Most often they say, “I need to go talk with the elders.”
Cetnar: Yeah.
Veinot: Because they don’t really know what to do with it. And one of the things that I’ve noticed over the years is, they always believe that they just haven’t been educated enough or worked hard enough, and somebody else will know the answer to a better way. What generally happens is, the elders just tell them, “Don’t go back to that place; it must be the house of an apostate.”
Cetnar: No independent thinking.
Veinot: No independent thinking.
Ankerberg: Alright. The thing is that this is devastating when you think about it—that you have a group of people claiming to speak for God, I mean, in every sense of the word, and coming out with a translation that deliberately inserts words into the text that change the meaning—that even people that are Unitarians or people that are not Christians that are translating the Greek text, if they’re honest, they say that’s not what it says. And they would say exactly what the Christian Church has said and held all down through these ages. In terms of your honesty, when you guys started to see this, what did it do to your conscience? You came out because of your conscience.
Gray: Yeah.
Ankerberg: Because you said you couldn’t keep on twisting this stuff any longer after a certain point.
Gray: It was devastating. I mean at the very beginning, when I first realized what was going on, I prayed to Jehovah, “Please, don’t let this be true.” You know, I had a lot invested in this—22 years at that point. I didn’t want what I was learning to be true. And it was.
Ankerberg: Joan?
Cetnar: It was one of the things that made me absolutely sure it was not God’s organization. It says very clearly in the Bible, you don’t add to or take away from this text. And one woman said to me, “Well, it doesn’t change anything in Colossians.” I said, “It certainly does; it makes Jesus a creature instead of the Creator.” And she didn’t even see that. And so, it’s things like that that make you absolutely sure that they are not of God.
Veinot: In their New World Translation, one of the things, the Interlinear, they tell you in the very beginning how they are going to insert the word “Jehovah;” and that is to go back in the Old Testament, and where we find Jehovah speaking or it’s quoting him, we will insert Jehovah here. And we see the dishonesty surfacing again in how they handle, for example, Philippians 2: “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bend of those in heaven and those on the earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
In 1950 they knew that that was referencing Isaiah 45:23, and they have a study note here in the 1950 edition pointing you back there. Well, if you go back to Isaiah 45: 21, it tells that there is only one Savior, “Is it not I, Jehovah, besides whom there is no other God.” How many other gods? Uh, no, that’s right—no other gods. “A righteous God and a Savior, being none except me. Turn to me and be saved, all you at the ends of the earth, for I am God and there is no one else. By mine own self I have sworn out of my own mouth. In righteousness the word has gone forth so that it will not return, that to me every knee will bend down and every tongue will swear.”
So what we have is the apostle quoting this passage and applying it to Jesus. “To me every tongue will swear…” What? “…that Jesus Christ is Lord.” It’s clear from their own translation.
Ankerberg: Now, next week we’re moving on. We want to talk about: How would you advise somebody who has doubts and is just on the line? How do you come out? It took you five years, most of you, to come out. This was after you started really getting hammered in your head, and your conscience was being bothered, and you were saying, how could this all be true? I’ve been deceived. We’re going to talk about how do you come out; what is the good news of the gospel? Where did Jesus Christ really come into your life in terms of helping you out, and the joy of knowing that you are actually going to heaven, alright. We’re going to talk about all that next week. I hope that you join us.

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